Religion at the Super Bowl

If it’s Super Bowl season, it must be time to talk about what ads did — and didn’t — make the $3 million commercial cut. Last year, all the fuss was about the ad with Tim Tebow and his mom (which turned out to have such a gentle pro-life message as to be lost on most viewers anyway); this year, news is spreading fast of another faintly religious ad that won’t be making it on the air, seen below:

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Fox rejected the ad on the grounds that it “does not accept advertising from religious organizations for the purpose of advancing particular beliefs or practices.” Fox certainly has that right, of course, even if strikes others as a little overzealous. Still, David Gibson explains that the ad isn’t exactly being singled out:

So far this year, Fox has nixed commercials over issues of bad taste and inappropriate content — which is a pretty high bar, given the popularity of frat boy humor and double entendres in Super Bowl ads, or the single-entendre spots that focus the attention so intently on sexy women that viewers don’t actually know what the sponsor does. (Quick, what does sell?)

Still, thanks to Fox’s guidelines, viewers of this Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers won’t see an ad for an online dating service aimed at spouses looking to have affairs. Or the dueling bobbleheads spot from the conservative comedy site, in which an angry Jesus doll pushes a smiling Obama doll into a fish bowl. And Fox also put the kibosh on an entry into the annual Pepsi-and-Doritos ad competition that envisioned the snack chip and soft drink as the bread and wine of the Eucharist

Perhaps most important of all, getting your ad rejected from the Super Bowl line-up is almost always better exposure than airing during the big game anyway. You get all the free publicity that comes with ginned-up controversy (see, I’m blogging about it!), and you don’t have to pay the $3 million price tag — which the “” folks admit they never had anyway. Win win!

Still, trying to keep religion out of sports is about as useless as trying to keep Zoe out of the organic chips and dip: Think of all those team chaplains, team prayers, celebrations in the end zone…not to mention the fact that the whole 3:16 eye black phenomenon started with the players themselves (or, rather, one player in particular).

Larry Taunton, the head of the Fixed Point Foundation that created the ad, doesn’t see the problem:

Taunton said he’d be happy to have some serious competition for the best religion-themed Super Bowl ad. It would beat another overrated Doritos spot or even race car driver Danica Patrick baring skin for a GoDaddy commercial.

“If the Hindus want to put out an ad, I’m all for it,” Taunton said. “Muslims? Bring it on. I’d love to see it. It’d make the Super Bowl a whole lot more interesting.”

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

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